Dear pastor Luginbill,
You wrote: "...obstinate perseverance in something so demonstrably false
is folly in the extreme. We know evolution is false because the Bible
very clearly documents the re-creation of all physical life on earth
approximately 6,000 years ago...".
This statement tells me you either:
1. Never took geology 101
2. Believe the Bible is inerrant
3. Believe the Bible must always be interpreted literally
4. Have no awareness of modern genetic research
5. All of the above
1. The science of geology alone provides ample proof of the folly of your statement. But there are other scientific disciplines (astronomy, physics and chemistry for example) that provide substantial corroborative evidence to back up the fact that the earth is far older than 6,000 years. Making the kinds of offhanded statements you do about evolution only hampers your credibility as a teacher of Christ's gospel. I strongly recommend you educate yourself a bit more in the sciences before assuming so much. Ignorance is not a worthy attribute of a man of God.
2. The Bible is the work of men, albeit inspired by God, and that alone proves it cannot be perfect, since men are not perfect. As J. Vernon McGee once remarked, "Anything man touches is corrupted".
3. You of all people know that scripture cannot always be literally interpreted. How then would you explain Acts 17:29? That we are literally God's children? Sounds like blasphemy to me.
4. We've come a long way recently in the sciences – more progress has been made in the past decade alone than in all the previous millennia combined – there is literally an exponential explosion of knowledge happening that simply cannot be ignored. Francis Collins, long-time director of the Human Genome Project, a leading researcher in medical genetics, and
a sincere Evangelical Christian, recently made the following remarks:
"The evidence for evolution is absolutely overwhelming. Those who would deny that should sit with me some day and go through the DNA evidence of our relatedness to other species. If I look at our genome, and compare it with that of the chimpanzee, they are 98.8% the same. Now some might argue "well, God simply used some good ideas in a slightly different way over and over again in multiple acts of special creation", but the data doesn't support that. For instance, chimpanzees have two more chromosomes than humans do. When you look closely to see what's going on there, those two chromosomes have fused together to make one of ours, and when you look at the DNA sequence at that fusion point, it has a remarkable character; it has the type of sequence that one sees at what's called the telomere, the tip of the chromosome; no other chromosome has that in the middle. It's clearly the signature of two chromosomes having come together, and when you look at the chimp and you look at the human, it's inescapable to conclude that we are descended from a common primate ancestor. We humans have pseudo-genes; genes that have lost their function. They've acquired some sort of major flaw, and in some instances those are genes which are located in the same place in the chimpanzee, or even in the dog or in the horse, yet in us they have stopped working. What's going on? Would God have put those there just to confuse us or mislead us, when in fact we are completely different, special acts of creation? That sounds like a trickster god, not the God I worship. So, I don't think by the study of DNA, or for that matter the fossil record, one can any longer deny the reality of evolution. But that's not a problem for me as a believer. If God decided to use that mechanism of creation, that's incredibly elegant; that's incredibly awe-inspiring."
Pastor Luginbill, you are clearly a bright guy. I hate to see you put yourself in a credibility hole by showing your ignorance of scientific endeavor. Clearly not all of us fit your gross generalization when you stated: "Make no mistake. It is not the samples, nor the apparatus, nor the testing methods with which we are here finding fault. Rather, it is the myopic lens of interpretation through which the anti-Bible scientific community is viewing their results, blindly ignoring the crucial testimony of scripture because, ipso facto, they reject the validity of scripture. And this is hardly an unbiased basis from which to proceed to a critique of the chronology of scripture."
Not all scientists or science enthusiasts fit such a dire mold, nor are we "blindly ignoring the crucial testimony of scripture". We simply know that scripture isn't always perfect when it comes to understanding the world we live in, since men wrote it, however much (or little) they were inspired to do so. And it isn't all about Satan trying to undermine things, or scientists having an anti-bible agenda! THAT kind of thinking is myopic and patently false. Knowledge and truth get us closer to God. And God's truths have nothing to fear from scientists. We of all people, as followers of Christ The Great Creator, should embrace discovery and learning! Seek to understand and comprehend Creation, even as we ourselves participate in the process of our own Creation by choosing to follow Him to become like Him (Romans 8:16-17).
Much of your work is impressive. Please keep it sound!
Response #1: Thank you for you e-mail. Let me first reiterate something before getting started here, namely, that I can understand the joy of learning and discovery, and see no problem with science and the scientific process (indeed, I have benefitted from it as much as the next person). I see no reason why a scientist can't be a good Christian and vice versa, and, certainly, the issues you raise are common enough and not raised by scientists alone. Many people feel as you do, and that is, of course, their right.
So I certainly can appreciate your point of view. It is just that my point of view and yours cannot be reconciled. It is not a matter of education or fact finding. It is a matter of faith. Although the tone of your letter is courteous enough, I am sure you are aware that it is highly rhetorical in nature (e.g., the five choices). Take, for example, the assumption that physical evidence which you find persuasive must for that reason stand as a trump against all other possible ways of viewing life and creation. I would not be shaken in my position if there were no discernible differences in the DNA of humans and chimpanzees. Indeed, the fact that the DNA difference is so small and the true difference a gap that could never be bridged only serves to prove my point. What is of necessity left out of any materialistic explanation of the universe and its particulars is the spiritual dimension. And it is of necessity left out because it can never be seen, measured or quantified – and yet is clearly there for persons of even the most rudimentary intelligence and education to see (i.e., you don't have to be a scientist to see the difference between a human being and a chimp). Human beings have a human spirit imparted by God at the point of birth, a spirit which is endued with the free will to choose for God. This will never be something I can prove to you by means of the narrow materialistic criteria that some in your profession seem to prefer to what their conscience and their hearts tell them (impulses God put in there), but scripture is very clear on the subject (see the link: "The Human Spirit"). Yes indeed, I do believe that scripture – rightly interpreted – is inerrant (and I'm not sure of the precise basis for your assumption that it is not). People do make mistakes – but God does not. He has given us His Word so that we might know the truth about such things (as much as we need to know, that is to say), and has done so in a perfect way. We may not always (and in some cases, perhaps only rarely) interpret His Word correctly (interpretation is as much an art as it is a science, one which takes much effort, much sacrifice, and the requisite spiritual gifts to perfect), but His Word is indeed the truth. One particular verse that is especially applicable to this discussion comes from the Book of Hebrews:
By faith we understand that the ages have been constructed by the Word of God, so that what we see (i.e., the material world) has not come into being from the things we now see.
In other words, God
tells me in very precise terms here that the universe is not exactly
what it may seem to the empirical eye to be, precisely the opposite of
what you are assuming. I do not at all agree that "God is tricking us"
for doing this. He created Adam and Eve as adults. It stands to reason
that He would create a universe that was, instantaneously, perfect in
every respect. The fact that some would take the pattern of the things
that He has made to posit other possibilities does not make Him a
deceiver. Rather, the world is already filled with deception and
currently in large measure under the control of the great deceiver
himself, the devil. People choose to believe what is not true of their
own free will. But anyone who genuinely persists in choosing to seek God
will be led to the truth. Faith is usually about believing what God says
in spite of what one's own eyes say (e.g., Abraham siring his heir at
99; the Israelites being miraculously delivered at the last moment when
the Lord parted the Red Sea). I don't see any reason for it to be any
different on this topic. But the remarkable thing to me is that your
position appears to me to take more faith than mine. All I
am doing is believing the Lord –
and He is eminently worthy of belief.
Your position, on the other hand, requires not only disbelieving the
Word of God (a very dangerous thing to do for obvious reasons, unless
you are in some sort of direct communication with the Almighty), but
positing a process that can only be inferred (none of us was there when
these things supposedly happened), and staking everything on something
that was not seen and cannot be reproduced, and whose underlying
theories are modified with every new discovery. Science, after all, is a
quest for (secular) knowledge, so that by definition all knowledge is
not yet known. Indeed, unless I am terribly misinformed, the number of
things we "know we don't know" is increasing at a rate faster than those
we do (to take a global assessment) –
and certainly when it comes to
digesting them all. This would seem to me to be something that ought to
engender humility about what it is we think we know (materialistically
speaking), rather than giving us confidence that we know enough to
discount God's assurances about things we can never know except through
faith by trusting what God has told us in no uncertain terms.
Long story short. From your particular point of view, your logic makes good sense assuming I view the world as you do. The problem is I do not. You find this incompatible with being a "man of God", but I would hope that all true men and women of God would put the least of God's words before the most persuasive evidence or rhetoric or trusted testimony the human race can muster. That, after all, is why we are here. The world tells us we are organisms. God tells us we are His children. The world tells us we have no hope, death is certain. God tells us we have eternal life in Jesus Christ. Paul said that to the Greeks (the scientific community of his day), Christ was "foolishness". But "the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of mankind" (1Cor.1:25), so that I, for one, would rather be a fool for Christ, than a Nobel laureate trying to explain before Him on that great day of days why it was that I wasn't willing to take His word for it. It is, spiritually speaking, a very dangerous game to discount any of the Bible, because that inevitably leads to distrust of all of it. And since by far most of what our faith is built on comes from the Bible, by doubting it in any of its (correctly translated / interpreted) particulars, we risk undermining our faith altogether. Ultimately, you have to decide whom and what to trust.
Please see the following links:
The problem of science and the Bible
Charles Hodge and Charles Darwin
Is the earth ever described as round in the Bible?
The origin of the four seasons
The shape of the universe according to the Bible
In Him who is the only
way, the only life, and the only truth, the One worthy of our faith in
every way, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You wrote (contradicting yourself in the same sentence): "Yes indeed, I do believe that scripture - rightly interpreted - is inerrant (and I'm not sure of the precise basis for your assumption that it is not). People do make mistakes - but God does not."
1. Scripture is the work of men, from start to finish.
A. Men wrote it. Fallible, sinful, error-prone, fallen men like Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, etc. Whether or not they actually speak for God depends on what they wrote, when they wrote it, and why.
B. Men copied it. Fallible, sinful, fallen men. Since we don't have a single scrap of the Ur-text, all we have are copies. Making copies is subject to errors, omissions, and interpretive licence.
C. Men kept it and passed it along. Fallible, sinful, fallen men. Some things got lost. Others portions got misplaced for a time. Men compiled it. Falllible, sinful, fallen men. Men decided, among the vast assortment of ancient, sacred writings, what was to be included, and what was not. Some things clearly belonged, others were debated over, and there was hardly a consensus as to what ultimately made it in, and what was cast aside as unworthy (the gospel of John for example). And what on earth are we to do today with recent finds (Dead Sea Scrolls for example)? "Sorry, the council has already ruled centuries ago! Anything else we find is immediately suspect and unworthy of critical examination!"
D. Men translate and interpret it. Fallible, sinful, fallen men, men like you, who do not claim to be prophets, but who justify their authority with the secular degrees of man's learning, deductive
reasoning, and logic. Men with their own biases and prejudices, men with pride in their accomplishments, in their own skills of discernment and logic, their ability to tease and wrest subtle meanings out of certain Hebrew or Greek words and phrases, and build entire doctrines on and around one or two verses of scripture. If, as you say, it's an art and a SCIENCE, then, by your own reasoning and admission, it is flawed.
And the proof of all this is self-evident! Men are the reason we have hundreds of different, splintered, combative, diverse factions, denominations, and cults today, instead of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" that scripture says we should have. There are as many interpretations and translations of the Bible as there are men doing the interpreting and translating. Excuse me for "lacking faith" in such a dismal reality pastor Luginbill! The Bible we have today was, for millennia, a dynamic, diverse assortment of prophecy, history, musings, prose, and correspondence. Then, suddenly, the door is slammed shut, God no longer communicates directly with prophetic or inspired men (or women), the dark ages ensue, corruption and vice takes over the church, and centuries of apostasy and confusion follow in its wake. Far too many churches today, professing to teach God's Word, are instead self-serving mega ministries bent on the accumulation of filthy lucre, and the vain ambitions of a prideful pastor who, bedecked with Armani suits and gold rings, struts in front of the camera in all his peacock glory. Hardly the kind of result that gives a girl seeking truth warm fuzzies!
I like to think that God doesn't make mistakes. But it seems clear that he also likes to accomplish his work through men, who are, by definition, not perfect. Why he chooses to do this is another subject for another day (I have some ideas!).
If God truly wanted perfect communication with us, he would do it himself. He would write perfect, unambiguous text. All of scripture would inspire, uplift, and comfort us! There would be no need for Bible scholars to tell us how to correctly interpret what we read -- it would all be plain, unadulterated, unambiguous truth, and nobody would have any question about what it meant, and why.
But of course that's not what we have. Since "God is not the author of confusion", we therefore clearly have the work of men. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's a remarkable work! It often does inspire, uplift, and comfort! Much of it is beautiful, wonderful truth, that speaks to my soul and spirit like nothing else! Often gems of wisdom and truth leap from its pages straight into my heart! I love scripture! Most of it anyway.
When I read about commands to Israel to wipe out entire villages; every man, woman and child and beast, I have to wonder if it's God giving the commands, or men. How could running a sword through a baby's heart not canker the soul of the man doing it? And how do I reconcile the commands of such a God to the Christ, who told his followers to love (and forgive) their enemies?
I can see some of Solomon's wisdom in the proverbs. I can also see the beginnings of his slide down the slippery slope to his ultimate folly as I read the truly uninspiring, shamelessly erotic prose that is the Song of Solomon.
I can easily feel the inspired beauty and passion of Paul's sermons, yet take his counsel to keep covered and silent as a woman with the perspective of the repressive culture in which he was raised. I do not believe I am a 2nd-class citizen, nor that a membrum virile is required to teach God's word!
Anyway, you (hopefully) get my point here. I find it far more dangerous a precedent to NOT question men who claim to speak for God, whether they are in scripture, or among us today, interpreting past words. To not question is to accept an invitation to Jonestown for a glass of Kool-Aid, or a government-sponsored weenie roast in a Waco compound...
So, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree here. I question everything and everyone. I believe that's what God wants me to do -- question, ponder, pray, be discerning, and yet believe in him. I do believe in him! I see evidence of his love and concern for me all around me. I see the wisdom of keeping his commandments -- they are designed for my happiness and my peace. I love John 7:17, for I know it to be true. I have come to know the truth of many of God's commands in the very way described there. I have faith in the power of his atoning sacrifice for me! It brings me comfort and hope beyond comprehension. I have faith that obedience to his commandments is the only thing that will bring peace to a war-weary world. Not guns, tanks or bombs! Not the policies of wicked presidents and corrupt governments! I love and trust and have faith in the beautiful, transforming principle of forgiveness. Of the wonderful gift of repentance. Of the power of the sermon on the mount. There is nothing else like it in all the earth! I have faith that loving God and my fellow (wo)men is the heart of the gospel message. That if all (wo)men would practice gospel principles in their lives, if they would follow the Savior Jesus Christ, the world would be a far different, better place! I do have faith in his marvelous, wonderful gospel! I do NOT have faith however that this book we call the Bible is an inerrant, perfect representation of it in all its aspects. It certainly is not the sum total of all truth. I'm frankly saddened that it is now a static document, no longer being added to; surely there are
men and women today with prophetic, inspired perspective to share as well...? Surely today, as
much as ever, we are in need of contemporary counsel from God. Where are the prophets and inspired counselors who were once called "as was Aaron"? Instead all I find are scribes, pharisees and hypocrites. Men of secular learning, applying art and science to wrest scripture this and that, instead of prophecy and inspiration leading us to new truth and new understanding.
I also see pretty clearly where we would be without science. Still living in the superstitious world of the dark ages. Still battling diseases like plague, smallpox and polio. With little hope when our children get sick. No penicillin to combat strep throat or an infected cut. With little understanding of the world in which we struggle to comprehend. With little free time to even ponder or comprehend. Witch doctors and leper colonies...
Science is one of God's ways of bringing light into the darkness. It has improved the quality of life on the earth for all of God's children, and that is a wonderful thing. No need to vilify the process! If wicked men wrest it (as some do scripture) to fill their own wicked purposes, blame men, not science (or scripture).
Religion provides the necessary moral compass that science (by definition) does not always provide (science can help the moral compass however by showing us the folly of failing in our stewardship to protect this earth from pollution and reckless burning of fossil fuels for example).
We need both. Both are (or at least can be) good. One without the other is incomplete. And there should be harmony in truth. God's truth has nothing to fear from scientific truth. When they conflict, resolution is required. Resolution does not come by burying our heads in the sand! It comes by understanding, by application of context, and by wisdom. I fail to see the wisdom of a stubborn, closed-minded insistence on a strict, literal interpretation of Genesis, when it flies in the face of mountains and museums of evidence to the contrary! My great fear is that when our
children read these simple Bible stories, and then learn unreconcilable scientific truths, that their
entire faith structure is abandoned in the process of thinking they've been deceived by their gullible and naive parents! Far better, IMO, to create a context of belief that allows for both. For example, yes, there was a prophet named Noah. Yes, God told him to build an ark. Yes, he took aboard mating pairs of animals to preserve them. Yes, the floods came as prophesied and flooded his world, killing the wicked disbelievers in that area. As far as Noah was concerned, the world was flooded. Did it cover the entire earth? There is overwhelming evidence that it did not. As far as Noah was concerned however, it did. And God's promise was kept. Is that the first time light was refracted by water droplets into a rainbow? Why would or should the laws of physics operate any differently then? So it's the first someone noticed apparently (it probably didn't rain much in those days where he lived). And so it goes. The lesson learned? God loves us. Therefore he warns us when we lose our way (which most of the time we do). Those who heed him are protected and saved. Those who ignore him risk death and destruction. Lesson learned!
One last point. You state that "the world is already filled with deception and currently in large measure under the control of the great deceiver himself, the devil." But you and I both know that the devil did not create our DNA, Christ did, since (we are told) Christ created ALL things (John 1:3). So don't drag the devil into this aspect of the discussion, because that kind of deliberate misdirection on your part is tantamount to dishonesty. Likewise the Devil did not create dinosaurs, as you seem to think, God did (see again John 1:3). He did so, in all likelihood, to lay
down vast deposits of oil and shale to benefit his children (the fact that we are killing each other over these oil deposits is another matter!). So when you tell me you have faith in His word, that's great. But HIS word isn't, apparently, always YOUR word.
I have to wonder if you aren't perhaps caught up in your own pride pastor Luginbill. You've clearly invested a great deal of time and effort into your pet Genesis Gap theories. So much so I fear that you are unwilling to look any more at alternatives, however viable or plausible or logical. That, to me, is a dangerous precedent.
I wouldn't tell you this if I didn't care about you, or admire you. Sorry if this comes across as
combative. It wasn't meant to be.
First let me thank you
for your kind words of encouragement. They are certainly appreciated
even if we don't see eye to eye on everything.
To respond, Jesus quoted scripture repeatedly, as did all of the New Testament writers, so they certainly believed it to be the Word of God. Peter makes it very clear that the process of divine inspiration sets scripture apart from every other form of human writing (2Pet.1:19-21). Whenever God intervenes in the world directly, by definition He violates the principles of physics. Therefore if one believes in a God who is involved in the world in any way whatsoever, one believes that the principles of physics (to the degree that scientific theory understands them at present) are in fact capable of being violated. If one really does believe that our God can make the sun stand still, can part the Red sea, can create the stars in the blink of an eye, can heal the sick . . . can resurrect us from the dead, then I don't see believing that He can superintend the creation, transmission, and preservation of His Word as a very great leap of faith, no matter how it may seem to violate the laws of probability. From the human, secular point of view, I understand where the objections you proffer come from. Although I can tell you that upon close inspection they are far less valid even in these terms than first meets the eye. Science, too, is done by "men", and so by the standards you put forth here, it is capable of every potential error you impute to the transmission of truth – and more (since science is dependent upon imperfect people making perfect empirical observations, passing them on by imperfect means to other imperfect people, etc.). The big difference is that I am relying upon God to preserve His Word of truth, whereas you are relying entirely upon the work of fallible human beings. But the main point is that at some point one has to have faith.
Therefore, of the four links in the scriptural chain as you describe it (i.e., "A - D"), point "D" is the only one with which I would assent to any degree. Through the supernatural superintendence of God Himself, we have access to the complete truth of the Word of God. What we may do to access that truth, however, is often another matter. Correct interpretation of what God's Word means is by no means a "slam dunk" sort of thing. First, the person doing the interpreting (beyond obvious and straightforward pronouncements), must have the gift of teaching (and that is supernaturally conferred by the Spirit at salvation). Second, such a person has to prepare adequately for a teaching ministry, learning the original languages, culture and history, systematic theology, hermeneutics and exegetical techniques. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, such persons have to give themselves and their will over to the Lord to superintend this process too – anyone who has a personal, or political, or financial, or organizational bias will always be hampered. And the process of effective study and teaching is time-consuming and lengthy. No one who is not extremely serious about it and committed to it has a chance of doing it right.
I do my best to find out what the Bible actually says, not from preconceived opinions but from the text itself, using all the tools at my disposal. Believe me when I say that I have had to change many of my original opinions over the years because that is where study of the Word and the Spirit led me. But even diligence and preparation and good intentions and hard work do not guarantee that I (or anyone else) am always (or even ever) "right". There are plenty of cults out there where the nonsense that is spewed forth in the name of God is seldom (if ever) "right". What are you as a Christian seeking God to do? I would suggest that you are to do exactly as you are doing, namely, read your Bible, learn more and more about God and His truth from it day by day, and use this base of truth in your search for solid, orthodox Bible teaching, with the Spirit of God within you making use of the truth you know to discern whether or not what you are examining is good or bad. And trust God that in spite of the weakness and insufficiency of human flesh that He is capable of providing you with exactly what you need.
You will never find a perfect source, but that does not mean you cannot find an adequate source of substantive Bible teaching (God does provide for all who are genuinely seeking). I certainly would never want to suggest that the materials I have posted to Ichthys are the end all and be all of legitimate Christian teaching. They are as good as I can make them (and am in process of making them), but I am definitely not going to tell you can't find better, or just as good, or even something that, while inferior, wouldn't be good enough. But "nothing" is not an answer, and "something" that is not really based upon truth or seeking truth to any meaningful degree is not sufficient either. I do my best to keep tradition, money, politics, and personality out of the equation. My deep desire and constant prayer for all who make contact with this ministry is that they find sufficient, substantive Bible teaching somewhere, then learn and grow from it.
In order to learn, in order to grow, in order to be and do what God would have you to be and do, the one thing that is absolutely critical is faith. An often misunderstood element to faith is authority. When you trust someone, you are in at least some sense respecting their authority, however limited. In order to trust God, you have to trust what He is telling you. It is ultimately impossible to separate the written Word of God from the living Word of God, Jesus Christ. They are one and the same. It is very tempting, especially when there are things in the Bible that trouble the heart (and no honest Christian can say that he or she has never read something in the Bible that they would not prefer to write down to "cultural relativism" or "textual error" or "problems with the canon" [i.e., your points A, B, and C respectively]). But one cannot really pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe without destroying the authority of scripture, because when you make yourself the referee as to what does and what does not have to be taken seriously, you unavoidably invest all authority in yourself. It's great to love scripture, but unless it is understood properly and believed completely, it can't do you any good. The only way you know about Jesus is through the Bible. If the Bible were wrong, then anything you might think you know about Jesus (or anything spiritual for that matter) could be wrong too.
I am a simple man, and no great intellectual. Everything I know that is worth knowing comes from what the Lord has put in His book of books for me and for you and for everyone who chooses to seek Him. For those who value empiricism above all, there can be no answer. This is partly because they have already rejected the truth in their hearts which by definition can only be known by faith. As that very well educated Roman, Pontius Pilate, retorted to our Lord, "What is truth?" Even if someone relying upon empiricism could have a conversation with God Himself, that would still not do it, for how could it be known for sure that what was being experiencing was not an illusion or a hallucination? At some point faith has to take over – it is by grace that you are saved through faith (Eph.2:8-9). No one will ever be able to show you beyond argument from material existence that the spiritual realities which you know in your heart are true are in fact the real truth. That takes trusting God through what He says in Word. God would never leave you here without a way to find Him and know Him and learn about what He has done for you and what He wants you to do.
The universe sings the reality of God and the goodness of Him, and everything that has been made is designed to lead us to Him (see the link: Natural Revelation). When we are willing to hear it, all we need to know has been preserved for us in the Bible. All we have to do is seek Him. Although that may not be easy and may take some time and effort, it is the best thing we could ever do in our lives. And the fact that some people made mistakes and some people misuse the Word, either deliberately or out of ignorance, is not an excuse, nor will it be an excuse before the throne of Jesus Christ on that day of days to come. He is going to show every person from their lives and what they have done and said and thought where their true priorities really lay. On that day every true purpose will be laid bare, and no amount of human wisdom or argumentation will weigh in the balance with the truth of God.
I encourage you to persevere in your seeking of the Lord. If this ministry is "too much for you to swallow" for whatever reason, please find one where your conscience (directed by the Spirit) and your mind (informed by scripture) tell you that what you are getting is right and good and true and substantial and full, leaving nothing out by reason of expediency (cf. Acts 20:20; 20:27). Wherever you go, you will inevitably find "bones in the fish" (as my old pastor used to say). Rather than choke or stop eating fish, the best thing is to put aside what you can't stomach at present – if it is clear that this is only a small part of something that is in the main very good – and not deprive yourself of the good part for that reason.
I write you these things in the love of Jesus Christ and in hope and prayer for your spiritual growth and fulfillment, and the for the fulfillment of the Lord's purpose for your life as well.
This may not pertain to anything the Bible could explain, but in your opinion, if you've ever looked at pictures of deep space on the hubble or other sites, why did God make such an infinite universe? Especially, when we compare our little earth in that scope. Do you think everything out there balances the existence of our planet? Do you think it will still be so infinite at the end of times with our new earth and new heavens? It just amazes me when I think about the vastness of it, the beauty of it, the complexity of it...to us, but how simple it probably is for our God. I don't believe in aliens or anything. I think we are special in God's eyes, but it just makes me wonder if He makes use of it in some way we could never understand or will make use of it one day. I know in your studies you've ascertained that it is used as a gateway for angels to pass from our earth back to heaven and used as a viewing lens of sorts. But the vastness beyond our earth is what I wonder about. What do you think?
This is indeed an interesting set of questions and all I can offer (beyond what you are aware of from the site) are some speculations. I have said before (see the link: "The Shape of the Universe"), that my best guess from scripture is that the universe is a perfect cube. I do not believe it is infinite. God is infinite, but God is not bounded by time or space. It is true that all of our investigations of the known universe make clear that its magnitude is truly beyond our ken – but that does not make it infinite. God created it – for us. And as a created thing, it is very likely that it has boundaries. An ant poised on a leaf in Central Park may think the park infinite, and indeed it will never be able to compass its bounds within its lifetime. Yet of course Central Park is a very finite part of New York City (let alone, the state, the country, the planet, the solar system, the galaxy, etc. – all of which are finite). So while the universe may well be bigger than we have any idea, I doubt that it is truly infinite. On the cube theory, if we were dead center in the middle of a cube of space, since our vision is not flat but curved (i.e., we perceive and see things out there in a circular sweep), we would not at all ever realize the universe's true shape without it possessing perceptible "sides" – we perceive it and so would think of it as being amorphous (even if that is incorrect). Another interesting thing to consider is that the original universe was filled with light and contained no darkness. Darkness only came as a result of creature rebellion (at some unrevealed time in the distant past) while the light we do see presently in the universe was only "re-lit" some six thousand years ago. So the assumptions of astro-physics in this regard are, like much related science, suffering from some massive misconceptions. There is no question but that any astronomer or physicist reading this would laugh and ask for an explanation of how light from distant stars could have reached us in such a short time, but I have never been embarrassed about the truth even in the absence of being able to give scientifically palatable explanations. Most such theory starts with a construct which excludes supernatural explanations in any case, so in truth there is little common ground to work with here. It is interesting to note on that point, however, that unless I am greatly mistaken the way we "know" how far away most of these stars and systems are is by making assumptions about the light they emit (i.e., parallax only works for very close-in objects, of three thousand or so light-years). So I do feel it is fair to point out that it is certainly possible (even if most scientists would deem it improbable) for what I find likely based upon scripture to be the case in fact (especially since I have the benefit of knowing certain things from scripture, like the six thousand years of restored light). So I certainly do not rule out that the earth truly is the center of the universe.
The third heaven, the abode of God at present, may not even be, technically speaking, in the space we observe. In fact, I think it unlikely that anything composed of the temporary material of this present creation can enter it at present (so its "distance" from earth is likely not to be measurable in spatial terms). The separation of God the Father from the tainted universe is an important theological point, and He will of course only return to earth when it is the New Earth in the New Heavens (Rev.21:3-4). The New Jerusalem will be massive in size (also cube shaped) and we cannot rule out the earth and the universe in their perfect and untainted new iteration will be even more impressive than before. Since our Lord in His resurrection body is capable of moving through material and moving from heaven to earth and back it is certainly likely that we will be able to explore the seemingly boundless new universe at will (and on the analogy with the New Earth it may retain features of the old one, only better and perhaps bigger – there will be no darkness in it). However, the greatest thing will be to be with Jesus and face to face with Him and the Father forevermore (Ps. 84:10). Whatever marvels there may be to explore in the finite universe now or even more so then, they cannot hold a candle to the wonders of the infinite God, and on that great day of days we shall "know even as we are known" (1Cor.13:12).
Whatever wonders that future day of days will bring, we know now that they will exceed anything we can imagine by unknown orders of magnitude. I think that may perhaps be one of the reasons behind the boundless nature of the present universe as we perceive it. As we consider the heavens, the work of God's hands, we cannot help but be overcome with humility and a sense of our hopelessness and helplessness apart from God on the one hand, and also of the wonders and glories of Him who made it on the other (Ps.8:1-5; 19:1-6; cf. Eccl.3:10). Since this is just the beginning and since we are looking only at the bare surface of such things, such contemplation ought to help us remember that a God of such power and wisdom can certainly be trusted with the small minutiae of our lives even when they seem to our limited eyes out of control.
In Him through whom are "all things", our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
At one time I also came
to embrace the teachings of Pember in Earth's Earliest Ages. In point
"e" on the Seven Days of Recreation in SR2 on the Gap theory, it
says this is the most likely explanation for the perceived contradiction
between the biblical account of the seven days of creation and the
fossil record. This was a key reason I not only embraced it but taught
Eventually I came to a place in my ministry where I accepted the fact that there were a number of doctrines of men I taught which were not the uncompromised word of God and as a result, I was compromising my faith.
I began to let myself be challenged on a number of issues starting with this one. Long story short, the Lord taught me that he did not need me to defend Him by adulterating the word of God to appease human intellectualism as if He needed the testimony of the Einstein community to vouch His existence.
I don't go to debate you on this issue. That is not my intent. My intent is to ask you to challenge yourself to see if you have allowed in you the same motivation I allowed in me when I embraced a twisting of scriptures to say things they were not intended to say. For example, ask yourself "what is Jeremiah 4:23ff really intending to say?" Then read the classic commentaries: Henry, Barnes, Gill, Clark, Jameson Fausett and Brown, etc...The context speaks for itself but in our attempt to validate our scientific appeasement, we have compromised the plain intent of scripture.
This was only one of many areas I began to challenge what I embraced as doctrine. But I came to the realization that if I was accepting a feeble interpretation of the first verse in the Bible, how many others did I water down?
I do appreciate your
attitude. And I would certainly agree on the principle of teaching only
what you believe, only what you know by faith, only what you are
convicted of as being true in scripture from diligent study of the Word
If I may, I think the fact that your quotation of this study is of an aside in a small sub-point speaks to the fact that my reasons for believing (and thus for teaching) the Gap that occurs between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 are not for the purpose of contradicting science or attempting to reconcile the Bible with archaeological evidence. I would certainly agree that such is a very poor and dangerous motivation to use as a basis for any teaching.
Let me assure that my teaching of the Genesis gap comes from a firm conviction based upon careful and painstaking exegesis of scripture that such is in fact the case. It is true that it is not an "easy doctrine" - but then, neither is the Trinity (and I am sure you would agree that that doctrine should not be pitched overboard on that account). What I have found is that once the gap is properly understood, it opens up many other wonderful things in scripture (for instance, the parallel between the seven days of re-construction and the seven days of human history which correspond to them; see the link: The Seven Days of Human History).
As to Jeremiah 4, the point being made there is not that Jeremiah is referring to the gap directly, but that his description of divine judgment upon Israel shows clearly that the terms tohu-ve-bhohu are indicative of devastation coming from the hand of God (akin to the destruction of the original earth as a consequence of Satan's fall). It may, however, be the case that Jeremiah understood the gap, and was thus using it in the typical prophetic fashion of analogy to a more compelling divine judgment (in the way that many of the prophets use the Day of the Lord as an analogy for contemporary judgment: see the link: "The Day of the Lord Paradigm").
I am happy to answer any specific questions you may have about this issue as taught at Ichthys. I do feel it important to point out that the specifics both large and small may be different from what you are familiar with in the teaching of others on this subject. But in any case, I remain convinced from scripture of the orthodoxy of this position, even though I am well aware that it is a "lightning rod" for those with a different view on the subject.
Thank you again for your Christian love and concern.
In the One who is the truth itself – may He continue to unite us in that truth – our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I find all of your
studies interesting and quite humble yet I can't help but wonder how you
came to embrace the Gap theory. Please explain your path to such a
belief. Here is a site and ministry that I support and Ken Ham is a very
studied individual, see what you think about what he has to say.
I had a look at some of
the text files on link provided. Mr. Ham does a better job than most of
arguing against the Genesis Gap, but, in my opinion, still falls short
of what I see as the major reasons to believe and teach this truth of
scripture. It's not a theory, but the word "theory" as it is employed in
this case by opponents is very revealing. After all, scripture either
teaches that the six days are a reconstruction following a cataclysm or
else there is no gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Whatever
scripture teaches, that is what I shall believe, and my whole life and
ministry have been predicated upon finding out what scripture genuinely
teaches, believing, and then teaching it to others as best I can. So to
answer that part of your question I would have to say that this was my
path. For example, I learned about the Trinity from others, and the
truth of that truth of scripture has been reinforced in all my studies
since; I learned about the pre-tribulational Rapture from others, but in
the course of my studies it became clear that this was not the truth and
I changed my belief to fit what the Bible actually had to say. But to
call either the Trinity or the Rapture a "theory" is a rhetorical
technique designed to have an emotional effect on a target by helping to
call the teaching's validity into doubt as a means of destroying any
belief in it through rhetorical means (it's only a "theory", after all,
like evolution). I have made it my policy to try to teach my brothers
and sisters what I have learned and believe to be the truth through
diligent study by means of scripture, translations from the original
languages, citations of parallel passages, and forthright, honest
exegesis wherein the basis for my reasoning is set out as clearly as
possible. That way, to believe or not to believe is in the hands of the
Christian in question under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In
contrast, it is a common characteristic of all cults to attempt first to
destroy the foundations of the belief systems of their victims so that
whatever they're peddling will thereafter be an easy sell, falling into
the vacuum of discarded prior beliefs. In my opinion it's a very
slippery slope for Christians to engage in such practices, no matter how
strongly we may feel about our point of view. Sooner or later, one way
or another, the Bible and the Spirit will win out –
provided only that
those who give attention to such things really are seeking God's truth
as more necessary than their daily bread.
Believe me when I say that I understand how unpopular the teaching of the Genesis Gap is in many circles, and this ministry has come under some considerable fire for it (which may, in and of itself, be an indication its validity). It would be easier to ignore it – just as it would be easier to teach a lot of things that are more comfortable and stay away from all sorts of things that are controversial and uncomfortable. My job, however, is to find the truth as best I can and teach it as straight as I can. That's my path, the one to which I have been called. I certainly would never suggest that I have all of the answers or have gotten everything 100% correct (and I always stress the necessity for those who use this ministry to read scripture for themselves; see the link: Read your Bible). But that is my goal, and it ought to be every Christian's goal. How do we achieve that goal if not through diligent study and teaching of the Word of God? Indeed, that is the only way. Therefore my method has been to try and be positive in approach rather than negative. I don't say that I have been entirely effective at this, but I try. If someone has good reasoning to deploy against this interpretation (the Genesis Gap) I am certainly willing to hear it, and always try to respond to direct and honest questions about how and why it is that I believe and teach what I believe and teach. I've never met Mr. Ham and, to be fair, his refutations don't seem to be leveled at my study of this teaching in particular, but it does seem that he is doing what any good rhetorician would do in attempting to refute a point of view where one is actually in the weaker position, namely, to re-frame the issue by setting up the opposing side's proofs in the most advantageous way (rather than hitting the actual arguments head on). One of the reasons why I bridle at such an approach is that the average Christian has a hard time weighing the opposing arguments. Most Christians do not know Hebrew and have not been to seminary, etc., so that it is very easy for someone good at argumentation to escape their notice in ignoring the strongest argument(s) and pouncing on the weakest one(s) while obfuscating on the ones in the middle. In my opinion, if a person really does know Hebrew, the fact of the grammar in Genesis 1:2 should give great pause before pronouncing the gap a "theory" and setting out to ridicule and ostracize anyone else who doesn't agree – at least for someone who claims to care what the Bible has to say. I suppose that is one of my greatest qualms about the employment of rhetoric of this sort: people who use it want to win an argument, but the objective ought to be to find out what the Bible truly says, so that it begs the question of whether or not they really care about that or have another agenda which takes precedence.
It would take far too long to rehearse all of the information in The Satanic Rebellion part 2: The Genesis Gap (please see that link), but I will offer the following:
Before all else, God created the heavens and the earth (i.e., perfectly). But the earth came to be ruined and despoiled ......
This is my translation
of the critical passage in question and it is explained in detail in the
link above. This is how I read it when I read it in Hebrew, and it is a
very natural way to read it. Now one can certainly translate this
passage differently, and many versions have. In my view that is not
because the scholars in question have not seen the gist of what I have
given here as a natural translation possibility but rather because it
didn't make entire sense to them as they were assuming prima facie that
the six days were original creation. If it is the case that the above is
a reasonable translation, then shouldn't there be at least a little
humble consideration of what the scripture might be telling us on this
point (rather than an all out rhetorical assault on those who are trying
to get to the bottom of what the Bible has to say in all things)?
I hope this response was helpful to you - and thanks for your all good words about these studies. Please feel free to write me back about any of this.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I have a question about your theory on the re-creation of the earth
following Genesis 1:1. Are you the first to come up with this? Can you
tell me of any others who share this view? Could you tell me other works
that present a similar idea? I've never heard of it before, but I find
it fascinating & persuasive.
I would love to take
full credit for the writings at Ichthys.com. I did write them all –
all you find here that is good and true is a mere exposition of what is
in the Bible. Just as a miner can't really take credit for the gold he
finds, I can't really take credit for the wonderful things it has been
my privilege to find in scripture. As to your specific question, the
fact of "re-creation" of the earth is, as you no doubt know from your
reading of these materials already, also intimately tied into 1) the
seven millennial days of the Plan of God, and 2) the "Genesis Gap". I
may be the first to actual express these ideas in terms of "re-creating"
earth, but I am certainly not the first (nor the only) exegete to teach
the seven millennial days and the fact of a gap between Genesis 1:1 and
1:2 wherein falls angelic creation and pre-history, including Satan's
rebellion and fall. For example, as I relate in part 5 of the Satanic
Rebellion series, the early church father Irenaeus (ca. 130-200) is the
first on record to actually explain how human history has been laid out
by God in seven millennia (see the link:
"The Testimony of Irenaeus"). And as to the "Genesis Gap", there are
a number of contemporary exegetes who hold to various versions of this
teaching (for some references, see the link:
"The Genesis Gap"). Of
course, as Christians who have made it our first priority to follow
Jesus Christ wherever He leads us, we should be prepared to believe and
apply anything and everything which, convinced from scripture through
the ministry of the Spirit, we are sure is true, regardless of what
anyone else thinks. Ultimately, the Bible has to be our standard of
truth and practice rather the traditions and opinions of people, no
matter how ancient, scholarly or numerous they may be.
Thank you for your enthusiasm for the Word of God. Keep fighting the good fight of faith.
In Him who is the truth, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank you for writing back to me, and I apologize if I inadvertently
offended you; it's just that I never heard this particular
interpretation of Genesis before, and I wondered how you came to it &
which other Biblical scholars agree with it. Like you, I believe in the
supremacy and accuracy of the Bible, but I doubt that the Bible is
easily understood. I think God is a mystery that we cannot fully
comprehend (at least not yet), and that all we really need to know is
that we have failed Him, but He has, through His own grace & mercy
rather than our merits, saved us. Nevertheless, I am always glad to gain
a little more insight into His ways, and I think you have blessed me
with such insight.
No offense on this end
- and I hope I didn't give any on yours. I certainly agree with your
statement to the effect that "the Bible is not easily understood". In
many ways that is true, but I believe that it has been given to us to be
understood. Clearly, you are correct in your feeling that there is so
much that we, finite and earthbound sinful creatures that we are, cannot
now know about God. As Paul puts it, though on that day of days we shall
"know even as we are known" now we see "through a glass and darkly" to
quote the KJV (1Cor.13:12). Yet Paul did devote himself to
knowing and teaching all that could be known and taught from scripture.
He had the benefit of direct inspiration and direct revelation, but we
have the benefit of the entire canon of scripture. I firmly believe, and
indeed it is the basis of the course of my life and of this ministry,
that it is possible to find out from the Bible all that we need to know,
even though that definitely takes much time and much effort. While there
is much that is basic to our Christian understanding of the Lord and His
desires for us (as you say, salvation through grace and mercy through
faith in Jesus Christ rather than our works being the essence of the
gospel), still we are called not to be babes drinking milk forever, but
to move on in time to solid food (Heb.5:11-13), in order that we might
not continue to be "swept to and fro by every breeze" of false teaching
(Eph.4:14-16). Ultimately, only by learning and applying the genuine
truth of scripture can we grow in Christ and grow closer to Christ. In
my experience, every small point of truth one learns, no matter how
insubstantial it may seem at the time, eventually contributes to the
tapestry of truth we are (or should be) weaving in our hearts. Granted,
true, substantive Bible teaching seems almost impossible to find these
certainly very few local churches will abide it (and that
explains why this ministry is on the internet). But God provides, and
those who seek it will find it. While I do not presume to have all the
answers, I hope you will find the studies at Ichthys helpful to your
spiritual growth, and stand ready to try and answer any specific
questions you might have.
Yours in the Word of Truth incarnate, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.